Book Review by Neil C Oliver: ‘The Outsider’ by Peter Quinn, published by Irish Sports Publishing.

The title of this book appears to come from the so-called Dublin elite who regard with suspicion those nationalists who live near the Border, as for example around Fermanagh and Cavan. Similarly, the Anglo-Irish nobles of Elizabeth I’s time despised the native Irish who lived beyond the Pale, that is to say, beyond the four counties of Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Meath. In his introduction, the author speaks of his life as having been divided into three parts when he draws a comparison, quoting Julius Caesar’s opening sentence in his account of the Gallic wars: ‘Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres’ (‘All Gaul is divided into three parts’). The first two parts refer to the author’s youth and his Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) activities. The third part outlines his many and varied business activities. Having spent early holidays on my uncle’s farm in Fermanagh, I can readily identify with accounts of milking, dealing in cattle and digging for turf. Peter Quinn learnt lessons from these basic activities under instruction from his father Hugh.

It seems that young Peter Quinn was a fast learner at primary school, moving on to St Michael’s College in Enniskillen. His Higher Education continued at The Queen’s University of Belfast, where he obtained a BA degree. He then went on to train as an accountant, but went back into academic life as a lecturer at ‘Queen’s’ and spent some time “double- jobbing” by lecturing in Dublin as well. Peter Quinn knew how to pack a lot into his day following the Roman precept, ‘carpe diem’ (Seize the day!). He set nothing but the highest standards for himself, ‘the best, or nothing’ (aut optimum, aut nihil) was always his goal both on and off the playing field.

Thus Peter knew how to play his cards right, seize his opportunities and make the most of them. He quotes from the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who stated how our lives are often governed by “events”. At the time when Quinn was at ‘Queen’s’, the famous English historian Professor Arnold Toynbee spoke of life as being a sequence of ‘challenge’ and ‘response’; and the secret of success was to find the correct response. Unlike Oliver Cromwell, who would maximise the moment by “striking while the iron is hot”, Peter Quinn’s reaction showed greater vision, like that of the great German Chancellor Bismarck, whose skill was in “making the iron hot by striking”. Moreover, Peter exhibited a particular skill in making the proper career moves at the right time. This combination of a pragmatic, positive approach to life, coupled with his varied and distinguished academic career, is indicative of his genius.

The second part of Peter Quinn’s life describes his rapid rise through the GAA, first as a player, then as an administrator, to his election as President of the GAA in 1991. The detail in the book is of interest to players and members, as also is the narrative to those who are not familiar with Gaelic sports and their organisation. A highlight for Quinn is his major role in the re-development of Croke Park. Under his presidency, the vision of a re-developed stadium for Gaelic games and their culture rose like the Phoenix from the ashes to execute the vision of a state-of-the-art stadium.

The third part of Peter Quinn’s life involved him in consultancy services, business, economics, accountancy, entrepreneurship, management, philosophy and philanthropy. For many years business took him on frequent overseas trips.

Like his brother Sean Quinn, Peter has helped provide jobs and stimulate community development. From his youth as a pupil, Latin scholar, academic, sportsman, orator and businessman, Peter Quinn has also acted as a past facilitator in Drumcree negotiations and as a past member of the Parades Commission. Whilst being a man of forthright views, the power to listen to the views of others, with conciliation, has shown Peter Quinn to be a diplomat who knows how to mind his P’s and Q’s.

Of the three categories into which Peter Quinn divides his life, another quotation from Julius Caesar comes to mind, one which the Roman Emperor borrowed from a previous successful general who was victorious in battle. We were told that when Julius Caesar conquered Britain, he is reported to have said, ‘Veni, Vidi , Vici’ (I came, I saw, I conquered). In the three parts of his life so far, Peter Quinn is clearly a champion, a team player, an upright citizen and a believer in firm fundamental family values. This ‘outsider’ has a positive outlook on life. His book proved to be a thoroughly good read, inside and out. John Milton once wrote, “A good book is a precious lifeblood of a master spirit.” ‘The Outsider’ easily passes this test.